Saturday, September 23, 2023 | Rabi' al-awwal 7, 1445 H
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30°C / 30°C

For shutterbugs, this is ripe time to shoot

Join passionate photographers from Oman and beyond as they gather in the Wilayat of Bidiya for the annual Tabseel season. Through workshops and collaborative exchanges, they immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of Omani traditions, capturing precious moments and documenting the laborious process of the dates harvest

Carriage loaded with dates
Carriage loaded with dates

THE annual Tabseel season, which took place in the Wilayat of Bidiya in North Al Sharqiyah Governorate, is always a special event that begins at the early dawn of 3 am.

The day-long event included many unique activities such as a photography workshop, scientific symposiums, and other related events.

Considered one of the most important agricultural seasons, lasting for two to three weeks, the season provides an opportunity for children to celebrate while wearing their finest Omani dresses.

Photography enthusiasts from Oman and the GCC region flocked to witness the ‘Tabseel’ process, capturing moments of excitement shared by both photographers and enthusiastic Omanis and expatriates.

Dates boiling process
Dates boiling process

Reinilda van Heuven Dernison, a resident of Muscat with Dutch nationality, was invited for the second time to participate in the ‘Kashtah,’ a specially-oriented photography workshop organised by professional photographers Salim al Hajri and Samir al Busaidy, focused on Al Faghoor or Al Tabseel.

A Dutch neuro psychotherapist and cognitive-behavioural therapist, Reinilda is also a devoted photographer. She highlights the important role played by children throughout the Tabseel process and how it brings together people of different generations, starting from the moment the dates are brought to the farm, drawn by donkeys and camels, accompanied by gaudily dressed Omani children.

Reinilda, who is passionate about documentary and travel photography, sees it as her mission to capture these precious moments and embrace Oman’s rich cultural tapestry. She views the Tabseel season as a learning curve, immersing oneself in local traditions and providing an exciting opportunity to escape the heat of Muscat.

Tabseel process
Tabseel process

Nearly 33 photographers, including participants from Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and France, took part in clicking the Tabseel process.

According to Reinilda, the ‘Kashtah’ provides a great platform for photographers to collaborate, exchange ideas with passionate colleagues from the region, and gain in-depth knowledge about Omani traditions and heritage. “The exchange of ideas continues even after the workshop, as photographers share their work and learn from different perspectives,” she adds.

The harvested dates are sold both locally and internationally, with major exports, especially to India and Asia. Reinilda mentions that these dates are increasingly used in European countries, especially the Netherlands, to make date chocolates due to their richness in Vitamin A, iron and calcium.

Kids being part of Tabseel
Kids being part of Tabseel

Noted Omani photographer Nasser bin Hamed al Harthy, known for his passion for landscape, mountains, portraits and wildlife, has extensively captured the vast Al Tabseel date harvest season. He hails from Wadi Al Abyad, one of the oldest towns with numerous date farms, and its uniqueness lies in the fact that all villagers own date trees on a single large farm.

Nasser mentions that citizens from other regions visit to buy dates grown in Al Abyad, considered the best as they produce high-quality dates known as Mabsli. Situated in a medium elevated area, the village provides a perfect climate for dates to yield good quality fruits.

The Tabseel process is a laborious one that involves cooking certain varieties of palm fruits, including the main type called ‘Al Mubsali’ used for the production of Busoor. Other varieties such as ‘Madlouki’ and ‘Bolaranga’ are also cooked in large copper cauldrons that are resistant to rust and can withstand high heat. This process takes place at a designated location called the ‘vehicle’ or the lighthouse.

Donkey ferry dates
Donkey ferry dates

The Tabseel process begins when the palm fruits ripen and turn yellow. They are picked, and the stems are lowered using a rope connected to the ground or through a container made of palm fronds called ‘the hive.’ Women, often accompanied by a large number of children, carry out this process accompanied by camels or donkeys.

The cooked Busoor is transferred to ‘Turkba,’ which are large copper cauldrons filled with water. It is cooked and boiled for 15 to 20 minutes.

Subsequently, Al Fagour is moved to designated drying areas known as ‘Mastiha’ or ‘Janour.’ It is exposed to direct sunlight for about 5 to 10 days, with the duration varying depending on weather conditions and temperature changes. Once Al Fagour becomes dry, it is packed and placed in bags for sale or export.


Photos by Samir al Busaidy, Salim al Hajri and Reinilda van Heuven Dernison

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